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3.8 out of 5 stars
I Can See in the Dark
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 9 January 2015
Riktor is a strange man. He has no family, no friends and lives a very lonely existence. Working as a nurse in a care home for the elderly, he is surrounded by pain and death. Having a secret crush on his boss makes the days go a bit faster. When a problem with trust causes Riktor to lose his temper, death finds its way into his own home. A visit from the police may not have been totally unexpected, but what does surprise Riktor is the fact that they are accusing him of a crime that he knows nothing about. He may be a strange man, but should he be punished for something he didn't do? Will it balance out the other crime?

Nordic crime thrillers have been growing in numbers over the past decade. Are they any better than the standard American thriller? Can English/Irish crime writers compete with Jo Nesbo and can Nordic authors hold their own against Lee Child? Translated works can sometimes lose something before it hits the page, but this one didn't. The story is dark, the protagonist is a despicable man who could give the reader the shivers. Written in the first person narrative, the author gives us access to Riktors thoughts, which are bleak and dour. Knowing his childhood story gives a bit of insight into his odd personality, but it is only when he meets Margareth that we can see how things could have been different for him.

This is not a light read. It is short and without decoration. It is the story of a disturbed soul, a child who grows up without love and the withdrawal of life by another's hands. A Nordic crime thriller which is less on thrill and crime, more inner dialogue and character development.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 August 2014
This is the first of two new standalone novels from the author of the wonderful Inspector Sejer series by this author, and bears many similarities to “The Murder of Harriet Krohn,” being published by Houghton Mifflin in November of this year: They can both be described as psychological thrillers, and both feature a man who is at least somewhat disturbed, who each in a fit of rage commits murder. The point of view in each is that of the killer, who to my mind could not be termed a “protagonist.” The distinction is that in the present novel, I could find no sympathy for that person.

Riktor has worked as a nurse for over 17 years. Now in his 40’s, he works at Lokka Nursing Home, ‘looking after’ (in his fashion) mostly very aged people almost completely unable to care for themselves in any sense of the term. ‘His fashion’ being that he frequently flushes their meds down the toilet, switches medications from one patient to another, and finds the mattress a good place into which to empty syringes, among other relatively minor forms of abuse. He lives with pain, sleeps little, describes his life as “barren” and “austere,” and it certainly is that. He speaks of his “quirks and fancies, my outbursts and attentions. Within me lurks an evil little devil who occasionally asserts himself. He’s impossible to avoid, because sometimes the temptation is too great. I’d never have believed it of Riktor, people would say in all their ignorant innocence, if they knew the truth about me and the things I’m capable of. I can see right through people. I can see what’s concealed in their innermost, shadowy recesses. And when it comes to evil, I can believe anything of anybody” and sees himself as being “someone on the outside of everything, a paltry observer of life.” And, of course, he can see in the dark.

At nearly the half-way point in the tale, and not long after the murder occurs, a police inspector appears at Riktor’s door. Not Inspector Sejer in this instance, but one no less tenacious and capable, and the battle of wits begins. At first, it seems as though the plot has taken an entirely different tangent. But ultimately not quite so much, in the hands of this very capable author. This book may not be for everyone, the early parts are rather depressing, but less so as the book continues. Another character says to Riktor as the book gets nearer to its conclusion, “Right tends to triumph in the end.” And the novel as a whole did as well, and is recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Many thriller writers have attempted to take us inside the mind of a psychopath. Few have succeeded with such understated elegance as Karin Fossum does here.

This appalling yet enthralling stand-alone novel convincingly describes the inner landscape of the quiet man, the loner, the secret sadist, the malcontent misanthrope who knows himself to be superior to normal people. He delights in tormenting vulnerable patients who depend upon him for care and medication, while passing sinister judgment on those people he casually encounters in what passes for a life.
Inevitably, his disregard for human dignity ends in brutal, heartless murder… but not in the way you might expect from the opening chapters of the tale.
The writing and translation are atmospheric and disturbing, but easily accessible. The first few chapters are a little uneven and tricky to engage with as we’re introduced to the strange character through his opinions of other people, but rapidly the plot takes over and then the pages fly by. Several scenes are disconcertingly effective, like the moment when the central character dispassionately watches a drowning man in the same way a normal person might observe a dying fly… (There's more thoughts on character and plot at murdermyahemandmore.net)

It’s an accomplished, uncomfortable read. Brilliant, but not the type of thriller for light entertainment.
9/10
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 9 January 2014
Fossum is interested in people and their motivation rather than in headline grabbing plots. As a result her novels tend to be quite low key but they do stay with you and you can probably related most of her characters to people you have met. Maybe not her best, but still easy to read and compelling.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 24 February 2014
I was a bit disappointed that Inspector Sejer didn't appear in this Fossum book, but it was a good, short read nonetheless.
Riktor is a man with no social connections and no understanding of human interaction. He spends his working life supposedly nursing the dying but really inflicting unseen cruelty upon his elderly patients. Otherwise he sits in his local park observing, but rarely interacting, with the park's other regulars. He is fascinated with death and coldly watches as a skier falls through thin ice in the park and drowns in front of him.
It's not long before Riktor commits a violent crime but when the police catch up with him, it's with something else entirely that they charge him.
Not the most skillfully plotted book, but an interesting study of an asocial, evil individual.
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I CAN SEE IN THE DARK is a new standalone thriller from Norwegian author Karin Fossum, author of the internationally successful Inspector Konrad Sejer crime series whose recent honors include a Gumshoe Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for mystery/thriller. She certainly seems to be current queen of Scandinavian mysteries, hottest woman writer emanating from that cold universe, and has been called `a truly great writer' by her Norwegian colleague Jo Nesbo, who must surely be considered king of the Scandinavian mystery/thriller since the untimely death of Stieg Larsson (THE MILLENIUM TRILOGY).

Fossum follows in the great tradition of Patricia Highsmith, (RIPLEY, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN), in giving us a tight, eerie psychological thriller narrated by its psychopathic protagonist, Riktor. He has positioned himself well for his sadistic inclinations, as he has become a male nurse in the Lokka nursing home, in the wing for the weakest and oldest. There he may abuse and mistreat his charges seemingly at will. A fortysomething loner, unattractive to everyone, who has never had a relationship with a woman and yearns for one, he hides his `evil little devil' in a placid exterior, by mimicking his co-workers, which he, with his psychopathic abilities, is well able to do. The law finally catches up to him, but for the wrong reasons, and from there, the game is on. Fossum refuses to offer us easy explanations for her creepy predator's mental disorder: she does not point at his genes, his upbringing, society at large, but leaves us to reach our own conclusions.

The author, as ever, does well with the sheer writing of this bleakly compelling suspense novel. She gives us Norway, the region of its capital Oslo, its byways, highways, social ways, weather, geography, flora and fauna with witty exactitude. Her narrative writing and dialog are fine. Her plotting is gripping, unsettling, although I did have one quibble with it: her use of a plot device that seemed rather lazy television to reach her conclusion. I've read, reviewed and liked several of this writer's works, BAD INTENTIONS, EVA'S EYE and THE INDIAN BRIDE: my reviews may be found on their respective web pages.

This chilling and haunting tale with a horror feel seems also to owe a bit to that great twentieth century Central European writer of existentialism, Franz Kafka, (THE METAMORPHOSIS). It is unsettling and disturbing, told in the spare Scandinavian style, with however, that emphatic violence that seems to be a hallmark of its literature. Mind you, I've been a fan of Scandinavian mysteries for a long time, back to the days of its founding mother and father, Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall and their series about Martin Beck, THE LAUGHING POLICEMAN. This novel of suspense is not for everyone, but it is first-rate.
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on 17 April 2015
At first, I thought I was going to hate this book. It goes inside the mind of a totally repellent individual. However, it is beautifully written and I soon became fascinated by this grotesque character. Language and description are extraordinary; you can completely see every character and every situation. If this has been translated from the original Norwegian, it is a great achievement. I am going off in search of everything this lady has written. I only became aware of her from an Ian Rankin recommendation in, I think, The Guardian.
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on 18 December 2014
An interesting read, and by an author I have not come across. I need to read more - a good sign surely, but this novel was not as satisfying as some others I have read. I kept expecting more, rather than deepening insights into the main character...and it never quite moved on at any pace. Short chapters helped- and maybe this is my problem, but I had begun to draw a character of some menace, but he wasnt!

I will read another book by this author - and then decide what next!
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Good read, but was rather disappointed as I felt that the plot only just hung together. Perhaps that's because I'm a fan of inspector Sejer, her usual protagonist, but for me this only JUST kept my interest going.I supose I wanted to see what sort of writer ms Fossum is without the usual 'set up', and I doubt I would bother again as I prefer her using her usual method of writing a detective/mystery novel. Worth a read, but nothing to write home about or eulogise over!
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 August 2013
Up to now I've read all the author's novels featuring Inspector Sejer catching murderers and so was surprised by this book being so different. It's almost like a stream of consciousness in the head of a deviant personality in the form of a nurse working in a palliative care hospital and his warped behaviour towards his helpless patients. Even in her more conventional detective novels Karin Fossum always seems more interested in the motivations of criminals, rather like Ruth Rendell, than in the procedures of detective work. The present book delves even more into the mind of the nurse. It's a good book and the narrative keeps one reading but it's an unsettling experience.
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